Rainwater testing

Rainwater, as it falls on the roof of a house, is largely free of bacterial or chemical contamination. However, during collection and storage, this can change.

Water collected in rainwater tanks is vulnerable to faecal (microbiological) contamination by birds and other small animals, such as possums, when their droppings on roofs and in gutters wash into the rainwater tank when it rains. And because roofs, gutters and tanks are often inadequately maintained and cleaned, their neglect can also compromise the water quality.

Rainwater that is collected in tanks does not undergo the same testing and treatment as drinking water that’s supplied to households by a water utility, such as SA Water.

For these reasons, you may be concerned about the quality of the rainwater you use, especially when its used for drinking or cooking purposes.

Should you get your rainwater tested?

In general, residential properties using rainwater tanks don’t need to conduct rainwater testing. Note. SA Health and other Australian State Departments of Health do not recommend routine testing of rainwater collected in domestic tanks. Consequently, we recommend that you follow the advice they provide about maintaining a clean supply of rainwater instead of having your water professionally tested.

You can contact SA Health’s Scientific Services on 08 8226 7100 or visit this page of its website for further information.

However, if you have a specific cause for concern and would like to test the quality and safety of your rainwater or have been directed to us from SA Health, we can provide you with expert sampling and testing services for private rainwater tanks.

We offer a package (see table below) of microbiological and chemical and pH tests for water contained in rainwater storage tanks. The analyses included in our test package have been developed in consultation with SA Health.

Microbiological tests

Water in rainwater tanks can sometimes be contaminated by micro-organisms from human or animal faeces. Bird and possum faeces are the most common. The micro-organism tested (E.coli) will provide you with an indication if your rainwater has been contaminated in this way.

Chemical tests

Chemical contaminants can be present in airborne dust. Sources include car exhaust fumes and agricultural/industrial chemical emissions. Lead based paints or flashing used on some older roofs may also flake off. All these contaminants can be washed from roofs into rainwater tanks. The common chemical contaminants in rainwater are iron, lead, zinc and copper. Acidity or pH are also tested to provide an idea of the general water quality.

TestADWG  guideline valueComments
Copper 2mg/L     health
1mg/L     aesthetic
From corrosion of pipes/fittings by soft, low pH water. Taste threshold 3 mg/L. High concentrations colour water blue-green. >1 mg/L may stain fittings. >2 mg/L can cause ill effects in some people.
Lead 0.01mg/L healthOccurs in water via dissolution from natural sources or household plumbing containing lead (e.g. pipes, solder).
Iron 0.3 mg/L aesthetic Occurs naturally in water, usually <1mg/L, but up to 100mg/L in oxygen depleted groundwater. Taste threshold 0.3mg/L. High concentrations stain laundry and fittings.
Zinc 3 mg/L  aesthetic  Usually from corrosion of galvanised pipes/fittings and brasses. Natural concentrations generally <0.01 mg/L. Taste problems >3 mg/L.
Nickel 0.02 mg/L healthDrinking water generally contains very low concentrations of nickel. Long term exposure may result in toxic effects to the kidneys. Nickel is known to be a common skin allergen and can cause dermatitis particularly in younger women
E. coli0/100mL   healthSample should NOT contain any E.coli

Step 1. Formal acceptance of our quote

After we receive an application for testing, we send our customers a formal Customer Service Request for your review and acceptance. This is an important step, as we cannot continue with the process until this is complete. Once we have received your acceptance, we will be in contact to organise step 2.

Step  2.  Collecting the water samples

You can either collect the water samples yourself and provide them to us or have our field officers can visit you (if your property is within our serviced locations) to collect the samples.

  • Option 1. Sample collection by customer

On receipt of your order and payment, you can choose to pickup bottles used for the collection of water samples from one of our laboratories or have the bottles couriered to you. The bottles and a small esky container (that you will use to keep the samples chilled) are provided to you free of charge.

Note. If you decide to collect the water samples, we will provide you with detailed instructions for collecting the samples due to the strict sampling requirements for microbiological (E.coli) tests. This process typically involves flaming the source tap on rainwater tank (please notify AWQC if the tap is not suitable for flaming), taking the sample in the sterile bottle provided to you and leaving an air gap, chilling the sample in the esky, and most importantly, ensuring the samples arrive at our laboratory within 24 hours of collection.

TestBottle type
E. coli1 x Sterile 300ml Plastic, with air gap, kept chilled
(delivered within 24 hours of collection)
Ph1 x 250mL Plastic, with no air gap, kept chilled
Copper, iron, lead, nickel, zinc1 x 250ml Acid Washed Plastic, with no air gap, kept chilled

You will need to organise delivery of the samples in the esky to our laboratory. It’s important to ensure the samples are returned within 24 hours, or the test results can be compromised.

  • Option 2. Sample collection by AWQC Field Services Officers

Alternatively, we can arrange for water samples be collected by AWQC Field Services Officers at an extra cost. A Field Services Officer will contact you via email or phone to arrange the collection of samples. Following collection, the samples will be transported to our laboratory in an AWQC refrigerated vehicle.

Step 3. Receiving your results

Following testing, we will provide you with a report within 5 working days that will let you compare your results to the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

How do I know if the water is safe for use?

AWQC cannot interpret the water quality test results. For interpretation of the test results, please contact the SA Health’s Scientific Services on 08 8226 7100.

Customer  collects  water samples.  Sample  bottle set collected from our laboratoriesCustomer  collects  water samples.  Sample  bottle set couriered to customer.AWQC field  services officer collects  samples
Metropolitan Adelaide, as described with the red lines in this map.$163.02$182.82$243.10
Non-metro. Adelaide$163.02$188.32$281.71

Prices are inc.GST and for testing one sample set only. Please contact AWQC (customerservice@awqc.com.au or telephone 1300 653 366) for prices for additional sample sets.

Proceed with testing

To proceed with testing please complete the application form below.

Soon after receipt of your application, we will email you a formal Customer Service Request (CSR) for your review and acceptance. The CSR will describe a proposed sample date (if you have opted to have the sample collected by AWQC Field Officers) and the tests we will perform. Following your review of the information in the CSR, you will will need to provide us a response to our email confirming the details are correct or advising us of any changes before we can accept your application.

Have you used our testing services before *
Customer to collect water samples
Sample collection by AWQC field services

^ Please note.  AWQC Field Services are unable to service all regional areas. Following receipt of your application, we will advise you if we cannot collect samples from your property.